small backyard with plants

16 Small-Backyard Ideas To Transform Your Outdoor Space

Katie Ziraldo8-Minute Read
August 31, 2022

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A small yard is often easier and less expensive to maintain, while still providing an intimate living space in the great outdoors. But people often overlook these spaces, opting for larger yards they believe have more potential. When it comes to creating a chic yet functional backyard space, size doesn’t have to be limiting.

If you’re searching for small backyard ideas and inspiration, we’ve got you covered.

Factors For Designing Your Small Backyard Space

Your dream backyard may include a large patio, an in-ground pool, a she shed getaway and garden fit for the royals, but it’s important to be realistic about what your small backyard can accommodate. So, before you break ground on the project, consider the following factors.

Yard Size

First and foremost, the size, shape and layout of your backyard will play a key role in creating a design plan for the outdoor space. Uneven terrain and the proximity to neighbors are also important considerations, as they may impact your ability to build.

To avoid ending up with a cluttered, hodge-podge of yard elements, create a design plan that optimizes the square footage you’re working with.

Functionality

Another important consideration is how the space will be used. With a small backyard, creating a multifunctional space is especially important, so determine your priorities ahead of time. Are you hoping for a space to let children or pets run wild? Will you be using the patio to entertain friends and family? While style choices are certainly important, be sure to consider function alongside form in your design.

Style

What sort of aesthetic are you trying to achieve? Do you dream of a tropical oasis or a rustic retreat? Your home is a reflection of you, and as such, so is your yard – so don’t shy away from incorporating your personal style throughout your backyard design.

Budget

Last but certainly not least, a crucial component of your backyard redesign plan is the amount of money you’re willing to dish out. Whether you’re viewing the undertaking as one big DIY project or planning to hire a professional for landscaping services, budget plays an important role in determining how grand your aspirations should be.

16 Small-Backyard Landscaping Ideas

Ready to make the most of your small backyard? Check out this list of our top design ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Take On Traditional Landscaping 

Take on traditional landscaping.

A good landscape design can do far more for your home than simply increasing its value. If you’re going to take the time to sit back and relax, you want to do it in a space that is both beautiful and functional, and embracing a lush, grassy backyard may be just the ticket.

There are several ways you can landscape your small backyard, from planting small trees and shrubs to incorporating flower beds, featuring annuals like summer flowers that can change and blossom with the seasons.

2. Cultivate A Garden

Cultivate a garden in small backyard.

Another great option for small backyards? Cultivating a herb, flower or vegetable garden! There are many advantages to growing a garden, including a myriad of mental and emotional benefits associated with spending time around greenery.

But growing a garden can also be an effective way to breathe new life into your small backyard. When choosing a garden design, be sure to consider the amount of sunlight and rainfall your yard receives throughout the day. This will impact the types of plants and herbs that will grow the best in the space. You should also consider the local wildlife to determine if using planters is the best option, or if building a small greenhouse will be a safer bet.

3. Design A Patio

Design a patio.

You may need to build a smaller patio, but you can still enjoy the benefits of having one, including extending your living space and having an area to entertain outdoors. When it comes to small backyard patio ideas, a little creativity can go a long way and you don’t need to sacrifice style.

A patio will likely become a focal point in any yard – especially a small one – so it’s important to choose a style that matches your home’s aesthetic. Both the overall design and the specific materials used can impact the overall feel of your patio, from sleek and modern to cozy and rustic.

4. Add A Patio Covering

Add a patio covering.

Looking for more ways to enjoy your new patio? Consider looking into different patio coverings to provide protection from UV rays and refuge from less than ideal weather conditions.

Adding something as simple as an umbrella over an outdoor table can really tie the space together, but to take it a step further, think about incorporating a more permanent form of cover, like a gazebo or a pergola.

5. Purchase Outdoor Furniture

Purchase outdoor furniture.

There are several furniture options to consider for your backyard space. Your options include an outdoor dining room table and chairs, storage benches, ottomans, picnic tables, hammocks, camp chairs and more.

But if your yard space is limited, we recommend opting for multipurpose furniture to make the most of the space you have. Think benches and ottomans that open to offer storage solutions inside.

6. Embrace A No-Mow Lawn

Embrace a no-mow lawn.

If you’re looking for a way to transform your yard and minimize lawn maintenance, your backyard redesign may provide the perfect opportunity to embrace a no-mow lawn. As the name implies, no-mow lawns are eco-friendly alternatives to the typical grassy lawn, meaning they don’t require any mowing and need minimal upkeep. Everything from sand or gravel, wildflowers or ornamental grasses and artificial turf are considered no-mow options.

When choosing an alternative for your yard, think about the overall vibe you’re going for as well as any other design elements you’ve already selected to create a cohesive look.

7. Construct A Fire Pit

Construct a fire pit.

Whether you’re looking for a place to tell ghost stories and roast s’mores or simply warm up in the colder months of the year, building a fire pit may be a great option. A simple rock, paver or refractory brick perimeter is all it takes to bring a wood-burning fire pit to life, though propane and natural gas fire pits are increasingly popular due to how simple they are to use.

And if building a fire pit from the ground up feels overwhelming, know that there are prefabricated fire pits and fire pit DIY kits that can help you get started.

8. Put Up A Fence

Put up a fence.

A strategically placed fence can also enhance a small outdoor space. In addition to boosting your overall curb appeal and providing additional privacy from neighbors, building a fence around your backyard – or even alongside one edge – can help define the space and make it feel more like an outdoor room, evoking feelings of safety and comfort.

9. Create Pathways

Create a pathway.

Backyard pathways add a certain touch of style to the space while also serving a functional purpose, perhaps connecting a patio to a driveway or leading guests from the back door to the garden.

Pathways can be particularly effective in small backyards as they create a natural track that is easy to follow, allowing more freedom to get creative with the surrounding spaces. Gravel, stone and mosaic tiles are all popular options for creating walkways.

10. Incorporate Outdoor Decor

Incorporate outdoor decor.

Incorporating outdoor decor can really elevate the backyard space, so remember that a small patio doesn’t have to be minimalist. Adding details like hanging or string lights, outdoor rugs and cushions can transform the space into a real oasis.

These items can also provide a sense of comfort, protect you from the sun, bring in pops of color and make the patio feel like an extension of the home. You can also extend the outdoor decor beyond the patio by adding lawn ornaments or statues in the garden.

11. Include Potted Or Hanging Plants

Include potted or hanging plants.

Potted and hanging plants can add a lot to an outdoor space. Although these container gardens are particularly popular among those who want to create an indoor garden, they can also be ideal for those with little yard space or poor soil conditions.

Whether potted or hanging, make sure the plants you choose have the proper drainage, so you don’t dry out or drown your plants. You’ll also want to pick containers that are the right size for the plants you’ll be placing in them, taking into consideration the plant’s root system, growth rate and how big and top-heavy it’ll grow.

12. Install A Water Feature

Install a water feature.

When you’re designing your backyard, think about defining a focal point that draws the eye in and tells it where to look. With a limited space, one focal point is enough to give balance to your entire yard.

The right focal point will be eye-catching and stand out from the rest of your garden. It should speak to your personality and the backyard aesthetic you’re hoping to achieve. Water features can be a great option for focal points. A tranquil water feature, a fountain or even a small koi pond can completely change the vibe of your backyard space.

13. Build A Pool Or Hot Tub

Build a pool or hot tub.

A small backyard doesn’t have to squash your dreams of having a pool – or an epic pool party. There are many options to choose from when it comes to backyard pool designs fit for small spaces – from lap pools, to wading pools and plunge pools.

A lap pool is typically about 8 – 10 feet wide and at least four times as long, though you can customize the dimensions to better fit your yard. Due to its narrower and possibly shorter dimensions, this type of pool can provide a traditional in-ground feel and function at a fraction of the space and the cost.

Wading pools are ideal for homeowners who are simply looking for a space to cool off. The entire pool can be 1 or 2 feet deep or gradually get deeper like it does at the beach. And for something a little deeper than a wading pool, consider a plunge pool, which are a fraction of the size of a regular pool, but just as deep. These compact swimming pools aren’t meant for swimming or exercise. Instead, they’re perfect for jumping in to cool off or lounging in deeper water with an iced tea in hand.

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14. Design An Outdoor Kitchen

Design an outdoor kitchen.

If you enjoy entertaining or love testing out new recipes on family and friends, it could be a win-win to build an outdoor kitchen – creating a seamless indoor-outdoor living area and allowing the cook to enjoy the backyard space alongside their guests while preparing a meal.

Outdoor kitchens don’t need to be large to be effective – a grill with a few cabinets and a seating area are all it takes to bring your space to the next level!  

15. Build A Storage Shed

Build a storage shed.

Quality storage space can be hard to come by. If you can spare a corner of your yard, consider building or buying a small shed to maximize your storage space. And outdoor sheds can be used for far more than just storage. See: the popularization of the she shed.

16. Make It Family-Friendly

Make it family-friendly.

If your little ones will be spending a substantial amount of time in your backyard space, it might be a good idea to swap out some of the more adult amenities – from fire pits to water features – for more family-friendly elements. A small sandbox, swing set or even a treehouse can bring your yard from dull to delightful for all the kiddos.

The Bottom Line

For many, having a comfortable, relaxing backyard environment is almost as important as what lies within the home. If you have a small backyard, don’t underestimate its potential purely based on its size: a few upgrades are all it takes to turn your yard from drab to fab.

And once you’ve designed your new backyard space, be sure to properly maintain it by browsing our additional lawn care tips.

Fund your renovations with a cash-out refinance.

Get approved online now!

NMLS #3030

Katie Ziraldo

Katie Ziraldo found her love of writing through her experience working with various newspapers, such as the Detroit Free Press. Her financial literacy stems from her four years as a Recruiter, when she learned the details of every role in the mortgage process. As a writer, she uses that knowledge to create relevant content for homeowners to help them reach their goals.